Vista 17: The Cross over Europe
In my experience there are two common fallacies on mission in Europe. The first sees all Europeans as broadly the same: all of Europe is said to be thoroughly secularized, or pagan, or devoid of vibrant Christian witness. The second considers the context of each nation or region as so unique that only those who have a deep appreciation of the language, history, culture and religious traditions of that place can possibly engage in authentic Christian mission. The first ignores European diversity and the second disregards Europe’s many common features. And when it comes to mission the first makes few allowances for contextualization whilst the second blinds us to opportunities to learn lessons from elsewhere.
As Alexander Dumas once said, “All generalizations are dangerous, even this one.” The problem, of course, is not the making of generalizations. We all do that as a step in our learning. The problem is turning those generalizations into absolutes so we don’t have think any further. But the opposite can also occur, where localisms are turned into absolutes, so that our thinking is closed to outside influences.
This edition of Vista seeks to trace a middle way between those two dangers. Evert van de Poll’s lead article explores some of Europe’s common regional features and this is followed by four responses, one from each of Europe’s four “corners”.
Vija Herefoss, writing from Norway, takes Evert to task for some of his generalizations of Scandanavia. Chris Ducker brings a Slavic perspective. Stephen March writes from the view of Catholic Europe and Kostake Milkov gives us a Balkan angle. Each emphasises the importance of understanding history and culture in contemporary Christian mission.
So whichever “corner” of Europe we are from, all of us can learn something if we are willing to reflect deeply on these stories of contextual mission in Europe today. And that is no sweeping generalization.
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